Corsica is a mountainous French island in the Mediterranean, and according the The Lonely Planet Guide, "it's hard to find a better combination of nature, culture and pleasure". With a description like that, it's pretty hard not to want to make a trip there! But as I was planning my annual spring Euro climbing vacation, I found it hard to get a sense of the quality and quantity of the climbing in Corsica, and after visiting many of the ultra-classic French climbing zones like Ceuse, the Gorges du Verdon, Presles and the Gorges du Tarn, all of which I could easily revisit, I wondered if Corsica was going to stand up to my high standards of French stone.
I shouldn't have worried...
I travel a lot and when I arrive in a new place that really inspires me I feel energized by the new smells and tastes and seeing new landscapes and combinations of colours. I run around taking a million photos of weeds and trees and bugs. Through my "fresh" eyes all of these commonplace things are national-geographic worthy spectacles, although a few weeks later when I am home and wading through all of my mediocre-at-best shots, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. A few years ago near the Verdon Gorge in France I went for a long solo hike on a rest day and witnessed the a parade of nose to ass caterpillars that was so long I couldn't even see the end of it. I took 50 photos and several movies, which is pretty funny considering that I took almost no photos while climbing up the steep and exposed walls of the beautiful Gorges du Verdon. "Ho hum, just another multi pitch rock climb, yawn. But these bugs are so cool!"
Caterpillar train near the Gorges du Verdon, France
Showing up in Corsica brought on a flurry of that feeling of excitement, wonder and super-energy. The landscape was beautiful, rugged and very different from what we had just experienced the previous week on the neighbouring island of Sardinia. It sounds silly to say that a certain rock type has special meaning to me, but there's something about granite that I completely love. Perhaps it is the fact many of my formative dirt-bag adventures were played out on the granite walls of Squamish and Yosemite.
After driving off the ferry in the town of Bonifacio on the southern tip of Corsica, we bought a map and made our way towards one of the main climbing areas - the Col de Bavedda.
We bought the only guide book we could find - a beautiful french guide book called "Bavedda - Auguilles entre ciel et torrents by Jean-Louis Fenouil and Jen-Paul Quilici". The route topos were all done on exquisitely detailed watercolour paintings, and although I loved the uniquely artistic appearance of the guide book, it turns out a photo or a detailed route topo is actually pretty helpful when you are figuring out an area for the first time. We spent two days attempting to find, then climb our chosen warm-up route, Esperanza, on Punta Rosso. It's a 6 pitch, 7a+ route with a steep 1.5 hour approach, which we got thunder stormed off part way up on both days. Although we weren't able to complete the route, from these pitches and some single pitch sport routes we did closer to the road we got a sense of the high-quality and mind-bending geometry of the Corsican granite.
|Watercolour image of the Punta Rosso from the Bavedda guidebook|
|Sunrise on some of the spires at the Col de Bavedda|
|Climbing up steep and wild features on Esparanza|
|No energy bars in sight, this was a fresh, pine-nut studded almond tart from the Boulangerie in Zonza.|
|Post-thunderstorm sunshine on the beautiful scenery at the Col de Bavedda|
|Huge flowers on the hike up to Esperanza|
|Evan and the base of Gozzi, figuring out what's what|
|The lower pitches on Gozzila were surrounded by these giant cacti, which were thankfully thorn-free|
|Starting up the steep and damp cave section of the route. By the appearance of the rock, I expected it to be crumbly kitty litter, but it was completely solid!|
|Evan in the fog on the summit of Gozzi|
|Beautiful plants and flowers on the descent|
|Evan hiking past a ruin on the decent|
|Salade de chevre chaud with some organic Corsican wine. I'd say the dirt-bagging days are officially over.|
|Me getting cosy with the wild boar... the stewed wild boar with chestnuts at this auberge in the town of Zonza was amazing.|
|It's hard to beat wood fired pizza on the beach, with some frosty Pietra (a Corsican Beer) or refreshing rose.|
Next we made a quick visit to the cultural and geographical centre of Corsica, Corte. Our main draw was the Vallee de Restonica, a beautiful valley next to Corte surrounded by Corsica's highest peaks with numerous long and short route possibilities. When I return to Corsica I will definitely schedule in a good week or two to climb in the Restonica, but on this trip we didn't have the time or the weather to do much more than drive up the valley and get a few roadside sport climbs in between thunder showers. But if the amount of rock and the quality of what we sampled is any indication, there is a lot of potential for great climbing on existing routes, as well as lots of new route potential with relatively easy access.
|We did a few pitches of 5.11+ to 5.12 at this crag called Frassetta in the Restonica. The climbing was up cracks, edges, and crazy round-features that almost felt like Maple cobbles.|
|I was worried I shouldn't use this for pro...|
|But then Evan gave it the MOG test|
|Evan on the 3rd pitch of Jeef|
|Climbing up through crazy huecos on the wild 7th pitch of Jeef.|
|The cave pitch.|
|Thunder-storm-aphobe Evan preparing to rap down as I basked on the summit, refusing to be rushed off our last summit in Corsica.|
|A profile view of the climb, taken from the descent raps down Delicatessen|